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Learn easily, by revising less time with the space time repetition method

Student stationery kit 📚

Spend less time revising, while learning better, that’s what we propose here with this stationery kit and its mini-tuto dedicated to the spaced repetition revision method. This very simple method consists in progressively increasing the time interval between each of your revision sessions in order to revise only the least mastered notions. A great gift idea for students!

Spending less time studying and learning more is a tempting promise, isn’t it? We have known for a very long time how our brain’s ability to memorize works, yet we rarely apply the techniques that would allow us to memorize more information faster. This is because we rarely take the time to learn how to learn. This skill, however essential, is useful at any age. Whether you are a student, revising for the brevet or already at university, in medical school, immersed in your PASS (PACES) revisions, or already in the workforce, where the opportunities to declaim a speech in front of an audience are still numerous, the following method will certainly interest you. The reading time of this article is about 3 minutes. Three short minutes that will save you precious hours of revision!

What is the spaced repetition method of revision?

The method of revision by spaced repetition consists in better distributing our learning time. In concrete terms, it involves gradually increasing the time interval between each of your revision sessions and revising at a given time only the notions that are the least complete.

One of the great advantages of this method is that it complements all the other learning techniques you already use. Decades of research in cognitive sciences have also allowed us to affirm that it is adapted to the functioning of each person, whether they have a visual or auditory memory.

It is particularly well suited to flashcards or revision sheets. In this case, the process is very simple: you just have to create five piles of cards: 

  • The cards in stack #1 should be reviewed every day: these are the concepts that you have learned the least.
  • The cards in the second pile should be reviewed every other day.
  • The cards in pile #3 should be reviewed once a week.
  • The cards in pile 4, every two weeks.
  • Finally, the cards in pile n°5, the day before the exam. These are the cards that are perfectly acquired. 

On the first day, all your cards will be in pile n°1. You will test yourself or have someone test you on all the cards. The correctly memorized cards will move to the next pile, while the cards that are not yet fully acquired will return to pile #1, regardless of their starting position. You will continue from day to day, according to the rhythm established by your piles.

This method invites you to optimize your revision schedule to free up more time. Time that you can use to learn more or simply to relax before your exams or meeting.

Sur quoi se base cette technique et d’où nous vient-elle ?

The spaced-repetition method of revision uses a memory lever known as the “spacing effect”. Numerous scientific studies have shown that, regardless of the amount of time spent on revision, the number and quality of the neuronal connections we create increase as we spread our learning over time. It is therefore more efficient to study for thirty minutes on Monday, thirty minutes on Tuesday and thirty minutes on Wednesday than to study for two hours on Wednesday. Yes, you read that right, it’s official and scientifically proven: revising the day before the exam is not a good strategy!

This phenomenon has been known since the end of the 19th century. It was discovered by the German philosopher Hermann Ebbinghaus, one of the founders of memory science. In order to understand how memory works, he carried out many tests on himself. Among these, he had to memorize (very) long lists of syllables. This experiment led to the discovery of the forgetting curve.

The consequences of this discovery were numerous since it allowed us to better understand the phenomenon of forgetting and its essential role in the memorization process. It was from this discovery that Ebbinghaus conceived the mnemonic technique of spaced repetition.

Why will this technique help you study more effectively?

Imagine that your memory is a huge library (you can even launch this playlist to get you in the mood and dive in)… Each new piece of knowledge you acquire comes, like a book, to a shelf. Over the years, knowledge accumulates… And it never stops! Throughout your life you continue to accumulate new knowledge, most often without even realizing it.

One day, while you are at a dinner party with friends, the discussion drifts to the era of the “Trente Glorieuses”. Ah, it reminds you nostalgically of your college history classes! What did they say about this again? You’d like to join in the conversation, but you can’t: the book on that period, which you put away in your mental library years ago, has since been buried under volumes and volumes of other diverse knowledge. And it has never been sorted or labeled. The knowledge is there, you know it, but you can’t find it. 

Memory is therefore above all a question of accessibility. You’ve read this flash card on the oral cavity 20 times now, but you still can’t remember what those little papillae on the tip of your tongue are called… And to think that the information is right there on the tip of your tongue, but it won’t come out! Frustrating, isn’t it?

The spaced repetition revision method is based on this forgetting curve. It consists in finding the moment at which the effort you will have to make to access the knowledge will be sufficient to provoke a real learning. It helps you find the perfect balance between rereading a review sheet you already know by heart (useless) and desperately trying to remember a notion you have already buried in the depths of your mental library (frustrating). 

It is based on the axiom that the greater the effort to access the information, the more effective the memorization. The spaced repetition method helps you find the optimal level of difficulty that will allow you to anchor the knowledge in your memory… and not forget where you stored it.

courbe de l'oubli et méthode de révision par répétition espacée spacing effect

How to revise well by combining the spaced repetition method and the Foglietto revision cards

From a practical point of view, there are several solutions to automatically set up a revision schedule and revise in an optimal way. For this, revision sheets are your best option. 

And that’s good news, because at Foglietto, we know all about cards! Foglietto allows you to maximize the potential of your flashcards and the spaced repetition revision method in several ways. We have selected two of them for you. But the best way is to follow your instincts and adapt our tools in the way that works best for you. These offer you unlimited flexibility, unlike a notebook, so it’s a breeze! 

Under this system, you will need to review a little bit every day, with some days being busier than others, since “every day” cards will sometimes be supplemented by “once a week” cards. We recommend that you set these days in advance, when you know you’ll need to spend more time studying, in a calendar or planner. 

1. How to study well with our boxes and dividers

You can easily set up your revision method with one of our wooden boxes, a few Foglietto cards (we advise you to use one card per concept or theme) and our dividers. This approach will allow you to review a large number of cards (up to 600 with the “Scatola” box or up to 340 with the “Tesoro” box).

Take 5 dividers. On the first divider, write “Every day” (1/1), on the second divider, “Every other day” (1/2), “Once a week” (1/7), “Once every two weeks” (1/14) and “Before the exam” (D-1).
Put your dividers in the box and place all your review sheets behind the first divider, labeled “Every Day.”
Self-test or have someone else test you, card by card. Place each correctly reviewed card under the next divider (if your card was originally under “Every day” then it will go under “Every other day”). Conversely, each card that is not yet fully acquired goes under the first divider (“Every day”), regardless of where it was originally placed.

Boost: use a color code, for example one color per subject or per type of concept, or create sub-sheets for each subject. How to do it? For example, choose to write review intervals only on center-tabbed dividers. Then write the name of each of your subjects on the side tabs, as many times as you have center tabs (i.e. five times for each subject, if you have followed the intervals given as an example). Then place a divider of each subject behind each interval divider. 

2. How to review with our Kanban folder organizers

This method is particularly suitable if you have a visual memory. It will allow you to see at a glance all the cards you have to revise, thus helping you to establish connections between each notion, which will also facilitate the creation of new neural networks at the base of any memorization process.

  1. Take your 5 Kanban folders. Write a review interval on each folder, for example: “Every day” (1/1), on the second one “Every other day” (1/2), “Once a week” (1/7), “Once every two weeks” (1/14) and “Before the exam” (D-1). Set up one divider per folder. 
  2. Initially, you will place all of your cards in the first folder with the “Everyday” divider. 
  3. Self-interview or have someone interview you, card by card. Place each correctly reviewed card in the next folder (if your card was originally in the “Every Day” folder, it will go under the “Every Other Day” folder). Conversely, each card that is not yet fully acquired goes back into the first folder (“Every day”), regardless of where it was originally placed.

Boost: Use a color code, for example one color per subject or per concept type, or use one folder per subject and per revision interval. You can then assign one set of folders for your subject #1, a second set of folders for your subject #2, etc. Using the same color-coded dividers for the review time intervals each time. This way, you’ll easily know that you’ll need to review all the cards in the yellow interleaved folders every day. Efficient!

In summary...

We have therefore seen together what the spaced repetition method of revision is, what this technique is based on and how it allows us to revise efficiently and learn more information easily. We have also seen how to apply it concretely, on a daily basis, with the help of Foglietto. So now you have all the cards in your hand to pass your next exams successfully! 

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